Cherokee Nation Seeking To Collect Family Histories Of Slave Descendants

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tags: slavery, racism, African American history, Native American history, Cherokee Nation

The Cherokee Nation, one of the largest Native American tribes, is acknowledging its role in slavery and discrimination against its Black members.

Axios reports that Cherokee officials are searching for the descendants of Black slaves who were once owned by tribal members and asking them to share their family stories. It’s an effort to acknowledge the evils of slavery and correct the lost history of Black Cherokees.

"The act of slavery, which was condoned by a Cherokee law, was wrong and a stain on the Cherokee Nation," Chuck Hoskin Jr., the Cherokee Nation’s principal chief, said. "As chief, I apologize that we did that, and then we're taking affirmative steps to remedy that."

Today, there are more than 390,000 tribal citizens across the globe. About 8,500 people of that population are enrolled citizens of Freedmen descent, Axios says. Cherokee Freedmen are descendants of Black people once enslaved by the tribe.

Over the years, there have been legal disputes over who can be considered a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, which only four years ago recognized Martin Luther King Jr. Day as an official holiday.

Tribal officials are now trying to make amends by piecing together the Freedmen’s history. They are urging those descendants to share family stories, photographs and memorabilia, which they would house in an exhibit at the Cherokee National History Museum. It's part of the Cherokee Freedmen History Project.

A drawn-out legal battle over the right to Cherokee citizenship ended in 2021 with the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court’s ruling that removed the phrase “by blood” from the nation’s constitution, CNN reported.

The decision granted full tribal citizenship rights to the descendants of Cherokee slaves, including running for office and access to tribal health care. The ruling came in response to a 2017 U.S. district court ruling that also granted them full tribal citizenship rights.

Read entire article at BET

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